High Efficiency Heat Pumps Can Pave the Path for Building Decarbonization in Cold Climates: Preprint

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Heat pumps play an instrumental role in buildings decarbonization strategies. Recent advances in heat pump systems employ variable-speed compressor technology and electronically commutated fan motors. Inherently, the heating capacity and efficiency of heat pumps decrease with falling outdoor temperatures. Compared to single-speed heat pumps, variable speed systems can maintain higher heating and cooling efficiencies over a wider range of outdoor temperatures. The goal of this multi-phase project was to determine the energy savings of a high efficiency, variable-speed, air-source, split system heat pump designed for cold climate applications. The first project phase was to evaluate the performance of the heat pump in the laboratory under varying outdoor conditions in heating and cooling modes. The second phase was to translate the laboratory-measured performance into lookup tables for EnergyPlus hourly building simulation engine. Then, two sets of annual building simulations were performed using typical meteorological year weather from the Chicago-O'Hare airport for three different building types (a single-family residence, a strip mall, and a low-rise office building). The first set simulated a standard efficiency heat pump while the second set utilized the phase two performance tables to model a high efficiency heat pump. The high efficiency heat pump produced significant annual heating energy savings in all three buildings. The variable speed compressor and fan control also contributed to cooling energy savings. The simulated annual energy savings ranged from 22% to 35% over their respective baseline. The project's findings helped a Midwest electric utility, Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), design new incentives around high efficiency heat pumps.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages19
StatePublished - 2022
Event2022 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings - Pacific Grove, California
Duration: 21 Aug 202226 Aug 2022


Conference2022 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings
CityPacific Grove, California

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-5500-82346


  • cold climate heat pump
  • energy modeling heat pump
  • high efficiency heat pump
  • variable speed heat pump


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